Thank you, Israel
Israel, a land that I heard about, since birth. It’s the land where Jesus lived and died, the land claimed by three of the world’s largest religions, and the land of a worldwide conflict. Yet, the stories of the region were not clear to me until I experienced them myself. Israel to me had always been a world away, literally.
The first moment when Israel impacted my college experience was during the first semester of my freshman year. My writing professor grew up in Israel; which lead her to tell short stories about her childhood and the land in which she grew up. These conversations were one of the first moments that I thought of Israel as more than just a place of debate and conflict but of a place full of people. When presented with the opportunity to join The David Project on their trip to Israel, I was excited because the trip was focused not on just one aspect of Israel. Instead, it wanted to tackle the many different narratives that exist in Israel by hearing from the people who live there. Despite the stories I heard growing up, my knowledge of the region boiled down to two points; that a conflict exists between Israel and Palestine and that all three monotheistic religions claim the land to be holy.
I was unprepared for how much this trip would impact me.
Visiting Israel was one of the most meaningful opportunities that I have had throughout my college experience. Narratives of pain, loss, destruction, conflict, tied to those of love, joy, life, and hope for a future all existed within the journey of each and every person in Israel. Hearing from these individuals allowed me to gain perspectives on not only those issues that exist because of the region’s location but also those of humanity. The stories of the life of a gay Israel man in Tel-Aviv, to conflict between neighbors, results of expensive cost to live, desire to be accepted by society, acceptance to love who you want, and the impacts of building a wall between two groups parallel the stories being told around the world today. Going to Israel allowed me to see that these problems not only exist within the U.S., but are problems faced by people around the world.
Traveling to Israel, I did not learn the best way to solve a problem that has existed for over 70 years. Instead, I learned a more powerful lesson: to listen. Listening not just for a flaw in their logic or for how you will respond, but the necessity to listen and learn. Learn from those around you, not only those above you but from those who surround you. Listen to their stories of pain, love, devastation, hope, sadness and joy. Listen because the world needs people who empathize, understand, grow, and learn from narratives; they are exposed to so that way the stories of hope increase and not those of pain and loss.
Israel: thank you for presenting me to the people not just the stories on the news, thank you for reminding me that the problems faced by one are not limited to them but impact everyone around them and thank you for reminding me to love.